SINGAPORE - Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs Chee Hong Tat will be joining the labour movement and will relinquish his appointment in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He will replace Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon, who is currently the deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), in a move that takes effect on May 15.
Announcing the moves on Friday (April 23), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he had made the decision to second Mr Chee, 47, to the labour movement after discussing the matter with NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng.
In a statement on Friday, the NTUC said that PM Lee had written to its president, Ms Mary Liew, on Wednesday to request that Dr Koh be released from his role so that he can return full-time to government service, and also requested that the NTUC Central Committee consider accepting Mr Chee into the labour movement.
On Thursday, the NTUC Central Committee met and accepted PM Lee's request, the statement added.
In his letter to Ms Liew, PM Lee had said: "I am confident that Hong Tat, with his concurrent appointment in the Ministry of Transport, and his previous experience in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the public service, will be able to contribute significantly to NTUC's efforts to secure the livelihoods and future of our workers."
In her reply, Ms Liew noted that having political office holders seconded to NTUC underscores the symbiotic relationship between the NTUC and the People's Action Party, adding: "We would be delighted to accept Brother Hong Tat to join us as he is no stranger to the labour movement."
The NTUC Central Committee is slated to officially appoint Mr Chee to his post at a later date, before the end of May, it said in the statement.
Mr Chee, who will continue as the Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport, will be working with Mr Ng, alongside NTUC deputy-secretaries-general Heng Chee How and Cham Hui Fong.
The NTUC noted that he is no stranger to helping workers. He will be receiving the Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest accolades in this year's May Day Awards, for his work in advocating for the protection of healthcare and public transport workers against abuse.
He has been closely involved in advising the Union of Power and Gas Employees (Upage) and Healthcare Services Employees' Union (HSEU), and has worked with HSEU leaders to ensure the well-being of healthcare workers.
He has also supported Upage efforts in skills upgrading and re-employment of older employees.
Mr Chee, who was appointed Minister of State for Health ,as well as Communications and Information, shortly after being elected as Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP in 2015, was promoted to Senior Minister of State in 2017.
Dr Koh, 49, meanwhile, will take on a new appointment in the Manpower Ministry as Senior Minister of State.
PM Lee said in his letter that Dr Koh, who was appointed as NTUC deputy-secretary general in 2018, has supported the labour chief as an additional interface between the labour movement and government agencies, and strengthened the close and symbiotic relationship between the NTUC and the PAP government.
"It's very good for the labour movement to have someone familiar at the Ministry of Manpower, especially one who has been working on worker training," he added at the press conference on Friday.
Ms Liew noted that Dr Koh has been a key member of the NTUC leadership team, driving efforts in expanding the Progressive Wage Model, as well as in training and transformation.
She thanked him for looking after the interests of Singapore's lower-wage workers, and pushing for productivity improvements.
"We are confident that Brother Poh Koon will continue to have a heart for our workers and we look forward to working with him in his new role," she said.